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September 30, 2009

Echo Park Lake of the future

Chicken Corner and a few residents of Echo Park and environs took a walking tour of Echo Park Lake yesterday, guided by various representatives of Black & Veatch and other subcontractors and city employees. The project reps gave their vision of the future of the lake, which is a recipient of Prop O funds for renewal. The EIR for the project is underway and the deadline for public comment is Oct. 9.

Most of what we saw I liked very much. Lots of new wetland areas, soft edges around the lake, well-chosen vegetation. The plan moves the waterpump station from the peninsula to the south end of the park. (It's hard to imagine how anyone got away with locating a utility building at the most beautiful lookout point in the park - but it happened. These things do happen when no one says no.) The lotus bed will be restored.

More good: 12 to 18 inches of slime are slated to be scraped off the bottom of the lake. An underwater berm will serve as a dam - because the lake is actually a dam. The lake bottom will be made of clay. And the drainage plans were impressive, designed to stop the use of city water for filling the lake -110,000 gallons of water are to go in the north end and out the south end every day -- and designed to keep sediment and garbage out. One things I learned: outflow begins at the south drain at Bellevue then proceeds beneath Glendale Blvd. to 2nd St., which it follows all the way to the LA River.

Not so wonderful: A rep for the landscape architects said they want to get rid of the floating-marsh islands that presently exist on the lake because, the rep said, they wouldn't add enjoyment to the lake. "What about the aquatic birds who have protected nests there?" I asked. Rep said they could nest along the edges of the lake instead. But unscrupulous people and children take the eggs.... No answer. He also said some of the trees, which should never have been planted 70 years ago, would have to be removed. But new ones, better ones, would be planted.

Black and Veatch's rep Hala (couldn't read her last name) said they are planning to drain the lake in one go - instead of in phases as many residents have requested for two years - because it would be less expensive to do so. When Judy Raskin, local birder of note, asked how much money would be saved, Hala said they didn't know. No one seems to have done calculations for that. They're just assuming it will be more expensive. Then she started to become impatient with questions. (The point of draining in phases is so migrating birds could still use the lake.) She said of course Fish and Game would have a say in the matter. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me at that moment to ask whether Fish and Game has to weigh in during the EIR. It seems strange that they wouldn't, but if they do they only have a few days to do so. And if they say the lake should be drained in phases then what good is an EIR that doesn't address that plan?

My friend Jane Bowers, who has a degree from the Kennedy School of Government and who is visiting from Boston, commented about how suspicious the Echo Park folk were of the information they were being given. (Well, that's Echo Park: it's full of smart, cranky skeptics.) She says she has more faith in the motives of people who are trying to get things like the lake rehabilitation done.

I had to agree that I want the project, and I didn't see any signs of villainy in front of me yesterday morning. I also like the overall plan, which seeks, happily, to respect the history of the lake and the neighborhood. But I care about the wildlife who presently LIVE at the park. And the way the animals and their advocates seem to be less than an afterthought for the giant private companies, well, that makes me cranky. Not a crank, but cranky. Certainly the birds add more overall enjoyment to a visit to the lake than a shapely view of the boathouse. And the cost of draining the lake in phases? Who knows what that would be?

If you have anything to say: Comments must be received in writing by October 9, 2009. Mail to: Maria Martin, City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering, 1149 South Broadway, Suite 600, Mail Stop 939, Los Angeles, CA 90015; or e-mail (include "Echo Park Comments" in subject) to

September 28, 2009

Loads of waters running deep

Ever since I've lived in the Silver Lake-Echo Park region, I've always heard that there were underground streams running beneath us in this area. One myth -- or was it true? -- was that the constant water wash running down Angus in Silver Lake for some years came from an underground stream. It's been dry in that spot for a while now, so I assume a stream was not the source.

And then, of course, there is the bottling plant down on York Ave. Sparkletts, I think. Porch talk has them pumping their water right at the spot.

Now comes along my friend Darrell Kunitomi to put facts to work. He found a great map: described by Myriad Small Things as "the intimate history of the suburban landscape from the point of view of water in Northeast Los Angeles..."

It shows an 1888 map of storm drains and "water courses," toggling it with a modern map. Muy interesante.

I asked Darrell where he found the map, and he wrote:

I was out in cyberspace [a few days ago], and sent it along to you and several others, native Angelenos and fellow fly fishers who could be concerned with water matters.
It may have been from the marvelous L.A. Creek Freak blog. So much lore and history -- and longing -- on that site. Appeals to me, because as an Angeleno who fished Echo Park as a boy, whose father actually swam in the L.A. River in the 1920s as a boy in Little Tokyo and who vividly recalls a greener (vacant lots were our playgrounds, where we constructed tunnels in the high weeds and forts and treehouses) more open less congested Los Angeles (driving to Disneyland was fantastic when the orange groves were in bloom, and Knott's Berry Farm's parking lots were dirt) I miss my old city. I miss the butterflies that flew all over Los Angeles. I could catch over a dozen species with the net my mom made. I mounted them in Riker boxes. Now and then a lost Monarch came through.
I visit rivers and streams now as an adult fly fisher. In many ways I search, and find, what now seems lost in the city.

A greener time -- fed by the same waters that run beneath us today. Perhaps!

September 24, 2009

Rooster rules

As you may know, the city took a stand on roosters on Tuesday. Citizens of Los Angeles now are allowed to have only one resident rooster per property. Janice Hahn introduced the measure, and it passed unanimously among the councilmembers who were present. After meetings that went far into the night, the editorial board of Chicken Corner has taken its own vote and decided that the new rooster rules are a good thing because, despite being introduced as a nuisance abatement issue, the new law looks like a shiny new tool for use in cock-fighting abatement. And, besides, who in tarnation (besides breeders and cock-fighters) needs two roosters? Not the hens.

Previously, Chicken Corner had been under the mistaken notion that we really weren't allowed to have even one in city neighborhoods (though there are many in Echo Park). Hens yes, roosters no, is what I thought. But I asked Eric Garcetti's office about it, and they got back to me with:

According to Hahn's office, there was no limit on the number of roosters at a residence before this ordinance. The only restrictions previously were that the roosters had to be 35ft from a residence and 100ft from neighbors' residences.

Over here at Chicken Corner we're crowing happily. Meantime, if you want to see a fine, rockin' rooster click here. Link courtesy of RJ Smith.

September 22, 2009

Top ten poop outs

Reports at Chicken Corner log a success at last weekend's poop event in Elysian Park, where over 40 volunteers cleaned our beautiful park. A good, enthusiastic turnout, which was offset by a few who said no.

Pooper troopers kept a list of the top ten reasons for not picking up poop in the park, and as you'll see the top ten list grew longer than ten:

Top 10 Reason not to Participate with the Pooper Scoopers
1. "I'm going out of town that day"
2. "I pick up after MY dog"
3. "My dog poops off the trail"
4. "I fill bags of other dogs poop all the time"
5. "It's Saturday"
6. "My dog poops before we leave our house"
7. "I have Bursitis"
8. "Who me? Get my hands dirty?"
9. "I don't do group anything"
10. "I...don't want my "tats" to fade in the sun and all the heat!"
11. The poop biodegrades in to the soil (true, but not before it has done harm to wildlife and native plants)
12. Plastic bags are not bio-degradable
13. Gotta go to work.
14. My dog is too shy to poop in the park
15. Other people pick it up, so why waste my time?
16. Gross
17. I just got my nails done
18. I'm texting
19. My dogs takes off, and I don't see where they do it
20. The coyotes don't pick up their skat

Chicken Corner particularly loves the last one, number 20. Coyotes don't pay taxes, either. So...does this mean you can claim a federal deduction for leaving a big pile of dog poop in the park?

Meanwhile: insider tip. Chicken Corner has heard from publishing insiders a bit of gossip concerning Dante's Inferno. Apparently, the author had written an entire circle of hell just for the citizens who did not pick up after their dogs (with bio-degradable poop bags). But Dante's editor convinced him to cut the 10th circle. Dante later told his friends Dana and Steve that he regretted cutting the 10th Circle. But, of course, it was too late.

September 19, 2009

Weekend diary

On Thursday, my husband and daughter and I got into the car and drove seven hours (counting a dinner stop in Paso Robles) to Monterey -- not to get away from Los Angeles, but to bask in foggy, damp air, and maybe see an otter or two. Considering all that was going on in Los Angeles this weekend, the trip could not be called a getaway (though it is an adventure).

First, there is the poop pick-up event taking place this very minute in Elysian Park. A service social occasion. All of dog society will be there, and I wish we were helping out, too, as it's not only poop that needs scooping but other bits of debris and trash that kills birds and robs our special park of beauty and grace. It was organized by the Echo Park Animal Alliance.

Next, there is the Frogtown Artwalk. This is the fourth annual -- organized by Tracy Stone -- and there are some 30 studios open to the public on a self-guided walking tour down by the river. In the past there have been fire-breathing pianos, there have been paintings, crazy furniture and...the river.

Well, it would have been swell to join in the fun back home. But it isn't exactly exile here at the Monterey Bay. So far, we have seen tiny deer that came near our lodging. Loads of seals. A lone sea nettle. Long-legged shore birds with long beaks. And the aquarium. We have met people from Merced and Cincinnatti, and I now believe that frozen vegetables are, in fact, "too good to be true" -- I won't be buying them anymore unless for very special reason (for one thing, they have been cooked and treated to cease enzyme action before freezing).

And, of course, the shoreline is better than you can believe. Just like in Los Angeles.

Whenever I take a driving trip away from LA, I am always struck by two things -- first by for how long I drive before I actually leave L.A. The journey begins way before we get out of town. And in this instance, it included an I-5 swing around the back side (north west) of the Angeles Forest, where there were patches of black that ran right up to the highway, and it all looked scary bare. The next thing is how enormously the state opens up and becomes huge faster than I can believe.

September 12, 2009

No Impact Man

Athena The question of impact -- the carbon footprint kind -- has certainly made some kind of impression on our consciences in the last few years. (When I say "our" I mean here at Chicken Corner and there in the general reading, media-digesting public.) But how deep an impression? Big boot or soft shoe? I mean, I built a compost bin with my daughter, and we grow a super-tiny fraction of the food we eat, and we shop at the farmers markets. And I mean, a "green" curriculum was a consideration when we looked at schools for my daughter -- and, no, the irony of driving her to school to learn about being low-impact is not lost on us. I try to be smart about water use. But I am guilty of having a lawn area (though not a big one). Evolution at Chicken Corner is a walk in process.

We need good examples -- we need encouragement. Real models for living in new ways. Which is what Laura Gabbert (a friend of mine) has done with her documentary, No Impact Man, which is about a man who actually lived the life in New York City.

No Impact got a good review in the L.A. Times. I am hoping to see it this weekend. I'll forgive myself the drive. Baby steps....

September 8, 2009

Dearest Citizens

I attended a most odd entertainment this evening. A scoping session. You should try one some time. First, you take a historic Barlow Respiratory Hospital that owns acreage smack in the middle of Elysian Park. I forget how many. Let's guess: more than fifteen. The hospital has 49 beds now, but it's a historic old place, all out of compliance with codes and whatnot. In truth, the respiratory hospital is fighting for its life. It wants to build a new facility, with 56 beds. So it plans to sell almost all of its acres to pay for new buildings, which it proposes to build in an east corner of the original property. This much is old news to you, I could be certain. The new news is nothing really new, except that it appears the hospital is stepping up efforts. There are consultants, and there are hypothetical plans. There are numbers! Numbers like 888. As in 888 residential units in the middle of Elysian Park. That number is on the lips of the neighborhood residents at the session, the ones who came for information.

The community room, Williams Hall, at Barlow is hot, and it is packed. I'm not good at crowd guessing, but I'd guess over a hundred information seekers, who have been cast in the role of input givers. Because, you see, there is no particular presentation -- because there are no proposals that have been made available to the good citizens who came to the meeting to...view proposals.

Instead, what we see is a three- or four-slide large projection explaining the principles of a scoping meeting. (These principals: this is a meeting for "Us" to learn what "You" want. Unless what you want is no new residential development in Elysian Park, because that's not what we're here to talk about.) There are no speakers. There is no video. Instead, there are representatives of the city planning commission and reps from about four consulting firms. With the exception of a planning guy from LA City, none of them have the names of their firms written on their "Welcome, I am--" stickers that they wear on their clothing. The name tags give their names and a general description such as "Project Management." (Project? What project?) The first consultant (let's call her Anne) I ask for a card says she does not have one. When I ask her to tell me all her information so I can write it myself, she goes and gets a card (from Impact Sciences) that she does have after all. The second rep has to go find one, and I wait a long time. At least he doesn't pretend he doesn't have a card.

So here's the event: each consultant or city employee has a folding table. There's "History"; there's "Community"; there's CEQA -- i.e., environmental impact -- and so on. The table "hosted" by the city employees has a few printed handouts...of maps of the general area (and no, I am not kidding; I am surprised the few pages they offered didn't include a map of the United States of America), and then the site. The "Community" table has nothing but a laptop and a staffer from who knows where.

I mean (as Arlo Guthrie would say) I'm sure the staffers knew which consultancy or which city department they were from... but we don't. And a laptop is not okay, in terms of sharing information with the public. At one point I tried to see what the "Community" laptop had to say. But there were people kind of crowding it, and they seemed confused. I asked what they'd seen (they were friends) and hell if they knew.

It must have been on this laptop (or maybe next door in the library) that the Eastsider found a pretty drawing of some apartments. You gotta fight -- or be smart -- to find the pretty pictures.

So each table (except "Community," which had only the laptop) has some sort of sign saying "This is a meeting to hear what you think." EXCEPT there is nothing to think about. Because no plans are proposed. Not EVEN hypothetical ones. We are being asked to give our opinions about a fictional construct that wasn't even constructed. The wordless poetry workshops were held next door in the library.

Here is one place where I really start to worry...because I believe there are more than enough hypothetical plans we could look at and comment upon. I have been contacted for over two years by grad students who have been drawing plans for this site. A couple of years ago, I attended a planning conference at the Pacific Design Center. Thom Mayne gave a presentation at which he insufferably declared that he'd been assigning his students at UCLA to think about high rises in Elysian Park. At Dodger Stadium, he said.

So why should the burden of expression be on the surrounding community? And, for that matter, why should it just be the community of Echo Park that has something to say?

Los Angeles has to be the biggest city in the US in square miles, and we have one of the worst person-per-park ratios. The best and most famous minds here have been grabbing at Elysian Park for a long time. The Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park is a tiny organization, but it is aptly named.

Among the crowd on Wednesday were about fifteen city planning students from Cal State Northridge. I'd be curious to know how they enjoyed this evening's theater.

September 3, 2009

Mayor Chicken Corner, Sector 37

The other Chicken Corner in other words. One of the amusing things about Google's auto search is the way it nets so many different kind of fish -- and turtles. A simple auto search for the words Chicken Corner regularly serves me menu specials from a restaurant in New Dehli and hikers' blogs from Chicken Corner in Utah and Chicken Corner in Kentucky. Today it delivered news of 15 illegal turtles in a Times of India story.

CHANDIGARH: As many as 15 turtles and eight conches were recovered from Mayor Chicken Corner, Sector 37 on Thursday. The turtles, a prohibited wildlife species, were in the illegal possession of Monu Kumar, owner of the shop, who used to sell these at high prices in the market, said SHO of PS 39, Janak Singh Rana.
On getting secret information, wildlife department officials had set up a joint team for nabbing the culprit, sources said. An official of People For Animals (PFA), Saurabh Gupta, was coordinating the operation, who he had earlier busted a gang involved in illegal trade of certain other endangered species of turtles. Sources said that a person identified as Shabir was arrested in Delhi and during interrogation, he revealed the name of Monu Kumar.
A case under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 was registered at Sector 39 police station. Accused Monu Kumar would be produced in the court on Friday.

We have illegal turtles -- and illegal tortoises -- in Cali, too. At least 500 large red-eared sliders at Echo Park Lake. And I'm sure that in the Daily News story I read about arrests in the Mojave desert after tortoises were found in a trunk the language sounded just as foreign to readers from India, if they read it. (I have always loved Indian English for what seems to me its extreme earnestness, and its varied cadences.)

A couple of things I didn't know how to translate: the "interrogation" that led to Monu Kumar's betrayal, and precisely what it means that he will be "produced" in court today. Oh, yes, and "The turtles...were in...possession of Monu Kumar."

September 2, 2009

Poetics of science

It was not quite random selection, I suppose, but a communication landed in my inbox a couple of days ago, announcing a web site called Sputnik Observatory. By the time I opened its wonderful blog, my lungs were tired from all the ash form the Station Fire, and my head hurt. But Sputnik pumped a quick stream of cool air into the room. A cool, dry but lively place to rest my mind. And it reminded me of how I love concept-driven blogs as an information-art form. Think Undercover Black Man or Boing Boing. Its title line: "Sputnik Observatory for the Study of Contemporary Culture." The site's entries include subjects such as "Are We Building a Society Out of Tune?" and "Sound is a Bionutrient." Chicken Corner hopes Sputnik's authors will dig up research along the lines of: "Chicken Corner is a Geographical State Out of Mind."

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